Subway rolls out $80 million plan to bring deli slicers to its U.S. locations

Is Subway going after the Jersey Mike’s crowd?

The sandwich-making giant, which ranks among the top 10 restaurant chains in terms of U.S. sales according to Nation’s Restaurant News, has announced an $80 million plan to bring deli slicers to all of its 20,000 domestic locations. As part of the initiative, the chain is introducing a new category of what it calls Deli Heroes subs, such as the Titan Turkey and Grand Slam, that use sliced-at-the-store meats.

To celebrate the rollout of the slicers, Subway is offering up to 1 million free six-inch Deli Heroes subs at participating locations on July 11 between 10 a.m. and noon local time.

Previously, Subway’s deli meats were sliced by the company’s supplier and arrived at the restaurants pre-sliced, the company said.

Subway is clearly aiming to challenge growing sandwich chains, including Jersey Mike’s, that offer subs with freshly sliced meat, said Mark Kalinowski, a veteran fast-food industry analyst.

“Subway has lost quite a bit of market share to their fellow sandwich competitors,” Kalinowski said.

At the same time, Subway isn’t necessarily saying every customer will see their sandwiches sliced to order. According to the company, the meat will be sliced in batches — not exactly the same thing as what Jersey Mike’s or your local deli does, but still a change that the company is touting as a significant one.

“We can’t wait for America to taste the difference and see how far we’ve come on our journey,” said Trevor Haynes, president of Subway’s North American operations.

Haynes was also referring to other recent changes the brand has made, including the introduction of Subway Series sandwiches specially crafted so customers don’t have to make choices in terms of the various meats, cheeses and toppings. (The Deli Heroes are the latest addition to the Subway Series.)

The batch-sliced meats, including turkey, ham, pepperoni and salami, will also be used on other sandwiches the chain offers beyond the Deli Heroes ones.

Kalinowski said while the chain isn’t quite following the sliced-to-order model, it is still making a “step in the right direction” to woo customers. At the same time, Kalinowski said, “When you see it sliced in front of you at Jersey Mike’s, that’s pretty cool.”

The Subway announcement comes at a critical time for the privately held company, which reportedly is putting itself up for sale. The Wall Street Journal noted that Subway, which has the most locations of any restaurant chain in the U.S., could be valued at more than $10 billion.

Kalinowski said it is thus imperative for Subway to do what it can to improve its offerings and make itself more attractive to potential buyers.

“You want to look as good as possible,” he said.

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